Immunity Boosters : A Myth Decoded

During past one and a half year, most of the advertisement industry was flooded with immunity-related advertisements. Everyone was trying to sell their product in the name of immunity. These products ranged from food products, health drinks, sanitizers, face masks, bathing soaps and multivitamin tablets. Everyone was selling immunity at that time. Even wall paint manufacturers were selling their paint in the name of immunity. The whole world was ready to boost their immunity by getting these products. But do these so called immunity boosters really worked ? The simple answer is No.

There is nothing like a immunity booster food. A good diet can improve your health, but can't boost your immunity. Immunity is the way our body fights with a foreign material. It is tested and improved only when any pathogen (bacteria or virus) attacks our body.

How does our immune system work ?

Every pathogen, either bacteria or virus, have a surface protein on them. Our immune system recognizes these foreign proteins and these are called antigens. Then our body produces an immune response.

There are two kinds of immune responses:

  • Innate immune response : It is non-specific and immune cells mount an immediate attack on antigens. This response consists of white blood cells like neutrophils, macrophages, and monocytes.
  • Adaptive immune response : It is a tailored defense based on the kind of pathogen that is being encountered. This response involves T cells and B cells, as well as antibodies which are made after recognizing the antigen. Innate immune response changes to adaptive as soon as body recognizes the antigens.

Do some specific foods boost Immune System ?

Our immune system is not located in a particular organ, but it resides all over the body. Our immune system is never activated by healthy food. Suppose if it gets activated, then unnecessary immune responses like inflammation and rise in body temperature may occur, which will be harmful for you.

Let us destroy some common myths about immune system boosting foods:

  • Multivitamin capsules don't improve your immune system.
  • Steroids don't improve your immune system, rather they make it weaker.
  • Fruits and vegetables makes you healthy but don't boost your immune response.
  • Vitamin-C and Zinc have got nothing to do with our immune system. Infact over-consumption of zinc can cause copper deficiency, while copper is necessary for proper functioning of nervous system. More zinc in body puts burden on kidneys and decreases the absorption of some medications.
  • Vitamins and Minerals are necessary for proper functioning of our body, but they don't activate or boost immune system.
  • Cytokines are a kind proteins that mediate signalling between immune cells. Their functioning and creation is neither controlled nor improved by food products.

How does immune system get activated ?

It is activated only when our body detects some foreign protein (antigen) inside the body. These foreign items may include virus, bacteria, fungus and even pollen particles that cause allergy. No food item can activate immune system unless it is contaminated. How our immune system works is already explained earlier.

Lets compare the activation of immune system with bodybuilding. If you keep eating protein rich diet but don't exercise then none of your muscles will improve. But when you exercise regularly, then our body recognizes that it needs to repair the muscles, improve their size and increase their count. At that time our body utilizes every nutrient in our diet to improve muscles. Same thing happens with immune system, it remains idle when there is no infection but gets activated as soon as we need it. Unnecessarily eating food products in the name of immunity boosters are excreted out by our digestive system and kidneys within few hours.

Role of Vaccine in boosting immune system

When it comes to boosting immune system, vaccine is usually the last thing we think about, while it is the best way to do so. Usually a vaccine contains a weaker form of that pathogen that cause the disease. When it is inserted in our body, our body recognizes it as foreign material. Then our immune system comes into action, it recognizes the antigens and generates T-cells, B-Cells and antibodies to kill that pathogen and destroy the antigens.

Final Note : Taking a healthy balanced diet is good for health, but it has got nothing to do with boosting the immunity. But it doesn't mean that healthy diet does not save you from diseases. Our immune system can work at its fullest when we need it, only if we have got a healthy body and correct body weight. So think good, eat healthy and exercise regularly to stay fit. Immune system will work and boost automatically when it is necessary without any intervention from you.

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